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SC's negative voting verdict, good or bad for democracy

The Supreme Court made a momentous decision when it held that voters have the right to reject all the candidates contesting polls.

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As per existing norms, if a voter goes to a polling booth and does not want to cast his vote for any candidate, he can sign a register saying he does not want to vote.

The Court directed the Election Commission to provide 'none of the above' (NOTA) option at the end of the list of candidates in the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the ballot papers to allow voters to exercise the option of rejecting all those contesting polls.

It is a remarkable verdict upholding the democratic spirit of our nation. It comes as a respite for the fence sitters who vote for the better of the lot just to ensure that they do their duty to cast vote.

Now, if you feel that none of the candidates are worth for representing, then you need not quit voting, rather vote 'NOTA' thereby sending a strong message to the political parties to field better candidates worth your vote. It would reduce alienation of voters who usually don't come to vote as they are not satisfied with the candidates.

This move is a severe blow to the political parties who takes the easy road to success by fielding criminal candidates on account of their 'winnability' factor.

Now, they will be forced to bring forth candidates with clean background. With this the aam aadmi is empowered with a powerful weapon in the form of NOTA.

Non- acceptance and rejection is an aspect of our fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression. We, the people are given the power to determine the fate of the nation and now our choices are not limited to the handful of candidates whom the parties field and from amongst whom we are bound to find the better one.

The court has opined that this would gradually bring out a systemic change in the whole election process in the country thereby cleansing Indian political spectrum in the long run.

The parties will take good care of the fact that more than half of the voters are not hard core followers of any particular political ideology and hence they would vote for none, beyond any political pressures and narrow political visions.

Also, this would mandate all the parties to follow a moral code of conduct not just at the time of elections but through out to win credibility and sustain their image. This would help developing better political culture in India.

So, there is not even a shred of doubt, prima facie, that the verdict holds good for the democracy. But, on second thoughts, what if NOTA gets maximum votes in many constituencies then it would literally bring the governance to a standstill.

One plausible suggestion is if NOTA get the highest vote, then the election should be cancelled and contesting candidates should be disqualified. And fresh election should be conducted and parties should be asked to field fresh candidates.

And if in second election, only a candidate who gets more than 50 per cent should be declared winner. Imagine the money, time and resources such a scenario would encompass. Though the verdict seems good in paper, the difficulties while implementing may turn it into a nightmare.

Is it just addressing the symptom, not the disease? Is the remedy worse than the disease? Abstaining from voting or negative voting just allows one to voice your discontent. But then what next? This is one important question to be pondered upon.

If the Election Commission can come up with a practical solution to the same, we could indeed cherish it as a celebration of our democratic ethos. But, till then we will have to keep our fingers crossed.

-Krishna S